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Consistent multidecadal variability in global temperature reconstructions and simulations over the Common Era

Abstract

Multidecadal surface temperature changes may be forced by natural as well as anthropogenic factors, or arise unforced from the climate system. Distinguishing these factors is essential for estimating sensitivity to multiple climatic forcings and the amplitude of the unforced variability. Here we present 2,000-year-long global mean temperature reconstructions using seven different statistical methods that draw from a global collection of temperature-sensitive palaeoclimate records. Our reconstructions display synchronous multidecadal temperature fluctuations that are coherent with one another and with fully forced millennial model simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 across the Common Era. A substantial portion of pre-industrial (1300–1800 ce) variability at multidecadal timescales is attributed to volcanic aerosol forcing. Reconstructions and simulations qualitatively agree on the amplitude of the unforced global mean multidecadal temperature variability, thereby increasing confidence in future projections of climate change on these timescales. The largest warming trends at timescales of 20 years and longer occur during the second half of the twentieth century, highlighting the unusual character of the warming in recent decades.

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Fig. 1: Global mean surface temperature history over the Common Era.
Fig. 2: MDV in reconstructions and models and volcanic forcing over the past millennium.
Fig. 3: Pre-industrial forcing response and magnitude of unforced MDV.
Fig. 4: Multidecadal temperature trends over the Common Era.

Data availability

The palaeotemperature records (PAGES 2k v.2.0.0) used for all reconstructions are available at: www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/study/21171. CMIP5 model runs are available at: http://pcmdi9.llnl.gov/. The primary outcomes for this study, including the temperature reconstructions for each method and the data used to construct the key figures including external forcing datasets used herein, model GMST and the screened input proxy data matrix, are available through the World Data Service (NOAA) Palaeoclimatology (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/study/26872) and Figshare (https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4507043).

Code availability

The code to generate the figures is available along with the data in the repository listed above under Data availability.

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Acknowledgements

This is a contribution to the PAGES 2k Network. PAGES is supported by the US National Science Foundation and the Swiss Academy of Sciences. PAGES 2k Network members are acknowledged for providing input proxy data. Some calculations were run on the Ubelix cluster at the University of Bern. S. Hanhijärvi provided the PAI code. M. Grosjean, S. J. Phipps and J. Werner provided inputs at different stages of the project. R.N. is supported by Swiss NSF grant number PZ00P2_154802. K.R. is funded by DFG grant number RE3994-2/1. S.B. acknowledges funding from the European Union (project 787574). F.S. is funded by the NSFC (grants numbers 41877440; 41430531; 41690114). A.S. was supported by NERC under the Belmont forum, Grant PacMedy (grant number NE/P006752/1). B.J.H. acknowledges funding from the Australian Research Council, Melbourne Water and DELWP on Linkage Project (LP150100062) and support from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. B.J.H. also acknowledges support from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes (CE170100023).

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R.N. coordinated the project. R.N. and J.E.-G. provided and generated input data. R.N. (PCR, CPS, PAI), F.S. (OIE, M08), M.P.E (DA) and L.A.B (BHM) developed and performed the indicated GMST reconstructions. R.N., K.R. and M.N.E. analysed reconstruction results. L.L. and A.S. performed the D&A analysis. F.Z. calculated the solar cross-wavelet analysis. K.R. performed the EBM analyses. J.F. and V.V. contributed to other data analysis. R.N. made the figures. R.N., D.S.K., M.N.E. and K.R. wrote the paper. L.A.B., S.B., J.E-.G., M.P.E., M.N.E., J.F., G.J.H., B.J.H., D.S.K., F.C.L., R.N., N.M., K.R., A.S., F.S. and L.v.G. designed the study, discussed the results and contributed to the writing.

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Correspondence to Raphael Neukom.

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PAGES 2k Consortium. Consistent multidecadal variability in global temperature reconstructions and simulations over the Common Era. Nat. Geosci. 12, 643–649 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0400-0

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